Drivers who overtake cyclists too closely may be pulled over and cautioned for dangerous driving under a new policing operation this summer.
Under Operation Close Pass, Police Scotland will deploy plain-clothes officers on bikes to snare reckless motorists who put cyclists at risk.
Motorists will then be pulled over and given a talking-to, and “if someone is unreceptive to education then they will be cautioned for careless or dangerous driving and receive a court summons”, said a statement from Cycling Scotland.
It comes as the national cycling organisation launches a new campaign to improve road safety, with figures showing at least three cyclists per week suffer serious injuries on Scotland’s roads.
Research from the Near Miss Project, led by the University of Westminster, has also suggested that every year people who regularly cycle in the UK will “experience an event that is so frightening that it alone makes them consider giving up cycling”.
Paul Kettles, 49, from Fife, caused minor injuries to a cyclist when overtaking them in 2019.
He said: “I was just so relieved they weren’t seriously hurt; it could have been much worse. I got points on my licence, a fine and had to do training to learn how to drive safely around people on bikes, including getting on a bike myself.
“The experience has changed me – I now can see the road from the perspective of someone riding a bike.
“What I’d say to any driver is, it’s not worth the risk. And even if you squeeze past a cyclist and don’t hit them, it’s really scary for them. I think we all need to understand these risks and share the roads.”
It is a careless driving offence for motorists to “close-pass” a cyclist – meaning, to overtake with less than a car’s width.
Drivers found to have done this can be given three points and be fined £100, or receive a criminal conviction for more serious offences.
Denise Hamilton, communications chief at Cycling Scotland, said of its Give Cycle Space campaign: “Every week in Scotland, at least three people are seriously injured while cycling.
“Dedicated cycling lanes, separated from road traffic, are the number one priority to make our roads safer for cycling and as we build this network, we need more education and enforcement.
“The Give Cycle Space campaign educates drivers about leaving at least a car’s width when passing people on bikes, supported by Police Scotland’s Operation Close Pass.
“Greater enforcement activity, both by police and cameras, has a proven impact on improving driver behaviour. We support the campaign for an online third-party reporting system in Scotland so dashcam footage can be used to detect and tackle dangerous driving.
“With more people taking up cycling in the last year, it’s more crucial than ever that we improve safety on our roads.”
Scotland’s Minister for Transport Graeme Dey said: “Close-passing on Scotland’s roads is unacceptable and continues to put lives at risk.
“It is so important that people who choose to cycle are not left frightened or put off by irresponsible overtaking from motorists.”